Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | News Sentinel Staff & John Huotari of Oak Ridge Today | June 30, 2016
Colleagues and friends gave Frank Munger a retirement send-off on Thursday, as the award-winning U.S. Department of Energy reporter wrapped up a 37-year career with the News Sentinel.
Managing Editor Tom Chester said he’s known Munger for more than half his life. He first worked with him as a competitor, then later, in 1987, they become colleagues.
“Frank is a champion of integrity, ethics and hard work,” Chester said. “He had content that no one else could get. He always had the great story.”
Referring to Munger’s popular blog, Atomic City Underground, Chester said Munger had a global audience and was considered the authority on his beat, which included nuclear energy, technology and business.
News Sentinel cartoonist Charlie Daniel presented Munger with a framed cartoon.
“This is the original, like you are,” said Daniel.
City Editor Amy J. Vellucci said Munger was the finest journalist she’d had the pleasure to work with in her 25-year career, while former Metro Editor John North, who now works at WBIR, Channel 10, said Munger set the standard for journalists everywhere.
Many pointed to Munger taking seriously his government watchdog role while retaining his sense of humor.
Entertainment reporter Wayne Bledsoe said Munger was a dedicated and loyal professional.
Emotional, Munger said, “Today, with my friends and colleagues, means everything.”
Munger received a Muddy Boot Award from the East Tennessee Economic Council during a retirement celebration on Wednesday. ETEC presents the Muddy Boot each year to honor individuals or groups of people who have helped build the community’s economic base. The award is a symbol of Oak Ridge’s mud-filled streets during its early days, when the city was built as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II.
Many of Munger’s colleagues on Wednesday and Thursday called him irreplaceable.
Current and former DOE and contractor officials Gerald Boyd, Sue Cange, Dave Keim, Thom Mason, Billy Stair, and Jim Alexander were at Wednesday’s event and recalled funny moments, his pocket-size voice recorder, the occasional disagreements and his ability to take complex topics, such as the Spallation Neutron Source, and turn them into clear, concise stories those without scientific backgrounds can understand.
They also presented Munger with mementos, including a framed collection of photos from Oak Ridge National Laboratory showing Munger at work over the years, reporting at the lab.
“I can say without reservation that you were always accurate and fair in your reporting — mostly,” said Boyd, a former DOE Oak Ridge Office manager who was unable to attend but write a letter to Munger. “You always tried to tell all sides of each story, and we all appreciated that even when the story was hard to accept. Your studied approach to reporting on things DOE Oak Ridge always kept the important issues visible and in the forefront, forcing us to have to deal with them. I believe that made us a better operation. In particular, your in-depth articles on various Oak Ridge programs, projects, and activities were excellent tutorials for the general public and helped us explain the value of the Oak Ridge missions. We will miss that.”
On his Atomic City Underground blog, Munger posted this on Thursday: “I don’t think I can fully express my gratitude for the reception thrown in my honor this evening by the Oak Ridge Partnership. Thank you for all the kind and generous words and the chance to see old colleagues and friends. New ones, too. I am stunned by the outpouring of praise for my work since I announced my retirement several weeks ago. Wow. I don’t know if I’m deserving, but it feels really good to have your career validated on multiple fronts. Thank you and thank you again.
And, yes, I am now the proud holder of The Muddy Boot Award. That’s something I didn’t see coming.”
Longtime State House reporter Richard Locker, who has covered the Legislature and politics for the News Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, is also retiring. His last day was Thursday.